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A word of advice on travelling in Vietnam and Travel Insurance from Henry Rokx

Submitted by John_Cook on Tue, 26/08/2014 - 10:38pm

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This was copied from a newsletter recently sent to members from Natcom

Licensing and Insurance for Motorbikes in Vietnam

Many Australians including Ulysses Club members are travelling overseas and riding motorcycles as part of their adventure, and Vietnam is a popular destination. Recently one of our members, Darryl Arnold from the Gold Coast, contacted us about the problem of licensing in Vietnam where Australian and International licenses are not recognized. So some research became necessary. Some of our members that may be aware of licensing and insurance requirements abroad, but there will be many more that are not, so I hope many will find the following material useful.

Meghann Roberts, the operator of Go Explore the World, has organized numerous motorcycle tours in Vietnam and other destinations, and has provided the following advice based on her extensive experience.

From Meghann the following words of wisdom:

There are lots of details that are overlooked with travel insurance, not just for Vietnam but for any motorbike riding internationally, and I was pleased to be asked to assist with putting together something for Riding On, to give Ulysses Club members something to think about.

Australian licences and International licences are not recognised in Vietnam. In order to be covered by insurance riders and pillions need to be very careful and thorough with purchasing an insurance policy. It is not plausible to obtain a local licence for people on holidays, you need to provide some proof of residency and hold a 3 month work/residence visa, sit a written test (in Vietnamese - although you can take a translator!), and do a skills course, it is a whole day experience and not one for those on holidays.

There are a lot of insurance companies that are very strict on what they will cover and when in regards to motorbikes in general - and Vietnam is especially one destination where people come unstuck quite often because of the wording.

It is vital that the terms are read, understood and confirmed. The amount of people that I come across that don't bother to read a policy at all, or can't understand their policy, is quite frightening.

That is why you should ask - and check if you are unsure. A motorcycle accident overseas can be a huge, financially crushing experience if you are not covered.

With all of my motorbike tours, travel insurance is a REQUIREMENT of travel - not an option.

Passengers/pillions are more than welcome to source their own policy, but I need a copy of the certificate and the policy wording so that I can check the exact wording - as you will see below one word can make a big difference. Each client is looked at on a case by case basis with me to suit their trip, riding and experience correctly, I am always reading and checking policy wording as they do change quite often - up until 10 months ago one insurer was the best but they have bought in engine capacity limitations making them hard to use in Europe and USA now - I am always looking for that elusive perfect policy for bike riders!

For Example - here are three general exclusions listed by insurance companies in their policy wording that I have come across quite a lot. A lot of members with policies for their bikes here in Australia believe that same company will have a travel insurance policy to suit bike riding - that is often not the case. Others I tend to find from clients who have sourced their own insurances generally from a travel agent who is not familiar with motorbikes and the limitations on travel insurance policies.

Insurance Company 1 - General Exclusions

(l) rides a motor cycle without wearing a helmet, or without an unrestricted motorcycle licence that is valid in your country of residence, or with an engine capacity greater than 250cc;

This one is fine - providing that you hold a full licence - So no learners or P plates - and that you are not on a bike over 250cc - fine generally for Vietnam - but no good for Europe or America.

Insurance Company 2 - General Exclusions

10) Your claim arises from being in control of a Motorcycle unless:

• you are licensed to drive a Motorcycle under a current Australian motorcycle licence or a current International Driving Permit, or

• you are a passenger travelling on a Motorcycle that is in the control of a person who holds a current motorcycle licence valid for the country you are travelling in.

This company is the one that I generally use as they don't have a capacity limitation and there is always the option to go up to a bigger bike if you choose - but they are no good if you are a pillion in Vietnam - as per the second point the licence has to be valid in the country you are travelling in.

So for example under this policy if a couple were to go to Vietnam – the rider would be covered - but the pillion would not be covered as your licence is not valid - so in this case I would use Insurance Company 1 as they do not have that restriction.

Insurance Company 3 - General Exclusions

15. claims involving participation by You (during the Journey) in motorcycling for any purpose.

This exclusion, but not any other exclusion, will be waived from the time the appropriate additional amount payable has been received by Us, provided You are wearing a helmet, the motorcycle has an engine capacity of 200cc or less and whilst in control, You hold a licence valid in the relevant country

So this one cannot be used in Vietnam as Australian licences are not valid in Vietnam.

I have had travellers referred to me from other clients to look over their policy - even if they have not booked a trip with me - they were advised by their travel agent that they are covered for riding bikes in Vietnam provided that they paid an extra amount - only for me to advise them that as per the policy wording any claim would have been declined.

I have never had an issue with police on any of my trips - all of my guided trips have a local Vietnamese guide who not only can take you to some amazing places you would never find on your own, help order the best local food, and help you avoid getting lost in a country where everyone smiles and points even when they don't understand what you are saying (even on the city fringes you will struggle to find English speakers) they can also liaise and control any situations that arise.

By Meghann Roberts 


Further advice that I have received from Thailand is that an International License is accepted in Thailand, but after the military coup, things like wearing of helmets and licence checks are being more strictly enforced. And of course travel insurance is a necessity, not a luxury.

So fellow members, the above comments are quite clear. Much of the above advice may also be pertinent to travel elsewhere and therefore it would be wise to double check the wording of your travel insurance policy to ensure coverage when you need it. In most cases, there may not be any problems, however if you are involved in an accident or incident which requires activation of a claim, it is too late to find out that you are not covered.

But this is not the end of the story and there may be more to follow next time.

Henry Rokx #28636

International Liasion


This information is well worth considering if travelling overseas and intending to ride a motorbike.

  • I have discovered that travel insurance associated with credit cards is quite good but generally does not cover you (or the pillion) if riding a motorbike over 200cc, so it is OK on a scooter in Thailand for example (which I relied upon last year)  but no good in Europe or US or India (think 500 Enfields etc)  where you may ride something over 200cc
  • On my recent trip to Europe I found the travel insurance quote from QBE (which does cover you on any size bike provided you're appropriately licensed and whom I have insured with in the past) to be quite expensive and after enquiring via Horizons Unlimited I stumbled upon World Nomads Insurance  which was much more economical.  They are allegedly underwritten by Lloyds and I fortunately I did not have to make a claim so I cannot comment on their service.  
  • I also found at least one that excluded me because I was over 60! 

So check thoroughly and make sure you are covered if riding overseas before deciding on your travel insurance.  Many travel agents will send you in the direction of Covermore but they will not cover you on anything over 200cc.    I enquired with Zurich but could not even get cover by paying an extra premium.  

The International Motoring Section at RACV may also be helpful in relation to legal requirements. 

You don't always need an International Driving/ Riding Perrmit - not required US - UK Canada etc, but places such as France require them as do many other obscure countries.  EG Not needed in Germany but recommended in the Netherlands.  Always worth a check.      wink